Don't be put off by my title: there is nothing sinister here chaps!! Indeed, with my general 'bloggings' I shall attempt to delight and astound you out of the mundaneness of a middle class suburban life, into the magical world of the Sophster!! Mystical...

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Sophie's Film Choice #21: SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING

Just when I thought my spidey senses had tingled enough, along came the third take on Spider-Man in as little as 15 years. Always one of my favourite super heroes (being the silliest and nerdiest), I cast aside my cynicism of this money-making ploy, and went along with my mum yesterday afternoon to see the latest version, Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Following surprisingly positive reviews, I was feeling pretty confident that this would be one of the better spidey films: and I was right. It might even be my favourite so far. Fans of indie comedy (Edgar Wright's work, Michael Cera's awkardness, old John Hughes films) will be in for a treat - this is a smart, funny and refreshingly unromantic take on the franchise which should particularly resonate with - dare I say it - 'Millenials' (shudders).  

"Cool Deathstar mate"
Spider-Man: Homecoming - as suggested by the title - is, first and foremost, a high school comedy. After the slushy romance of the last version starring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone's surgical attachment, Tom Holland's Spider-Man is a 100% awkward, only-just-pubescent teenager. Although the actor is 21, the character of Peter is only supposed to be 15 at this point. Girls are only just coming on to his radar - and they are firmly in third place behind 1) His internship with Tony Stark (a genius concept) and 2) His #nerdgoals friendship with school pal, Ned. 

Indeed, my mum was very pleased when she discovered that Tony Stark would be making more than a passing appearance in this non-Iron Man film. Known to be the most self-centred and arrogant of all the Avengers, Stark's 'mentorship' of Peter Parker is a joy to watch. The film opens on Peter's handheld camera as he documents an overly excited 'video diary' of his first days with Stark, which hilariously sets up the chemistry between the two. Peter is the new intern, wide eyed and ready to join the Avengers as soon as possible: Tony is the unconvinced mentor, literally programming Spider-Man's suit with a 'training wheels' mode. Urging Peter to stay out of his hair while he has better things to do, he enlists the help of Happy (the ironically straight-faced Jon Favreau) to screen his calls. Sick of being treated like a kid, Peter obviously ignores Tony's instruction to be a 'friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man' and finds more than enough trouble to fill 2 hours of action-packed entertainment. 

The beauty is that Peter Parker most definitely IS a kid. Under the (seemingly) watchful eye of Iron Man, he makes mistakes and has to be bailed out multiple times. He's extremely clumsy and doesn't know how to use his web shooters properly yet. He spends long evenings in, building LEGO Death Stars with his friend, Ned (who is the only one that knows he is Spider-Man and is gleefully excited by this). He's part of the school maths team. He has no idea how to ask a girl out. He wears t-shirts with chemistry jokes on them. He's even told by a local criminal that he needs to work on his intimidation tactics. But this is the bedrock of Spider-Man and why we love him - he's the gawky underdog, who truly appreciates his own powers because they are brand new and FREAKIN' AWESOME. 

The friendship between Peter and Ned (played by Jacob Batalon) is a refreshing move away from the normal romantic central plot of the Spider-Man films. Whilst Peter does fancy a girl at school, there's a sense nothing will really come of it (the romance is likely to establish itself more strongly in the next instalment). The geeky relationship between these two best friends is much more fitting and fun, as they live out their comic book dreams and work together 'just like real super heroes' in the climax of the film. I'm looking forward to seeing these grin-inducing characters develop as the series progresses.  

"She doesn't even GO here"
By ditching the well-worn origin story (we've been bummed out enough times by now), Spider-Man: Homecoming leaves plenty of time for well-paced, rough and ready action sequences, without overcomplicating the plot. Spider-Man training up is all well and good, but what's a hero without a villain? Michael Keaton ditches his previous super hero cape and takes on the antagonist role in this film: reminiscent of Willem Defoe's Green Goblin in the original Tobey Maguire franchise, Keaton plays Adrian Toomes (a.k.a. Vulture), a man with huge secrets, deadly technology at his fingertips and far too many close links to Peter. To say any more would be spoilerific, but I will say that Keaton's unhinged smile works perfectly in this role - and we may not have seen the last of him yet. 

In a world where Iron Man is deemed responsible to coach a teenager whilst drinking whiskey on a beach and Captain America is giving government sponsored gym tutorials in schools, Marvel has neatly integrated Spider-Man into the franchise with humour, heart, and a solid identity: champion of the teen nerds. Bring on the sequel! 

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